We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Saturday, September 7. 2013
The world is not a hellhole of escalating violence – you are living in the most peaceful era in our species’ existence, says Steven Pinker.
Saturday, August 31. 2013
Accountants know who he was. He was a pal of Leonardo, and the inventor of double-entry bookkeeping.
He wrote treatises on chess, math, and other things too. Imagine what sort of website he could have had, had he only invented the intertunnels too. Everybody knows that Sippican invented the intertunnels.
Double entry sounds like tax cheating, but it is not. It is about credits and debits. (It does not refer to the private, personal books for cash receipts that many unscupulous Lefties use to dodge Uncle Sam and rip off their neighbors.)
Image is Luca Pacioli, b. c. 1445.
Tuesday, August 27. 2013
Via Ace of Spades:
The oldest prominent participant in the (American) Revolution, by a wide margin, was Benjamin Franklin, who was 70 years old on July 4, 1776. Franklin was a full two generations removed from the likes of Madison and Hamilton. But the oldest participant in the war was Samuel Whittemore, who fought in an early skirmish at the age of 80:
Thursday, July 4. 2013
"To champion the nation's founding principles is to commit to a downsizing of government the likes of which can barely be imagined, in today's climate. Who in America is prepared to handle the whole truth and nothing but . . . or commit to so radical a cause? Who on talk radio would dare hint of mounting a righteous crusade of abolition against the welfare principle, as such? Which Tea Party candidate will run for office pledging to slash his constituents' benefits and put the civil servants in his district or state out to pasture?"
Related, from Judge Napolitano: How can we celebrate the degradation of liberty?
Related: Seventy-one percent of Americans think the signers of the Declaration of Independence would be disappointed by the way the United States has turned out, a Gallup survey released Thursday shows.
I deliberately did not write 'Independence Day'. As I'm sure many Maggie's readers are aware, technically the Fourth of July is not Independence Day. Legally, the day of separation was the Second of July (am I being cynical when I wonder why New York abstained?), which John Adams mentions in his letter to Abigail, regarding the importance of the day the Continental Congress voted to commit treason.
It's intriguing that Adams was so sure of the importance of the day. He knew they would not sign a document and that would be the end of any disagreement. It would be seven more years before independence was assured, during which every signer would face potential death for committing treason. One signer actually recanted after he was captured, imprisoned and treated miserably. Sad to say he comes from my home state of New Jersey. We did name a college after him, and it's worth noting he returned to the fold when he was released. He knew, like every other man signing the document, that this idea was bigger than himself. Possibly one of the greatest ideas in governance ever before conceived.
Despite the risks, Adams' statement of optimism regarding the Congress' decision was well-founded. He, and all the others, realized the power of ideas and the power of the individual. Today isn't a day for the government these men eventually founded, it's a day of us, the individuals which these men entrusted with the liberty they knew would free us to succeed and progress.
Sunday, June 30. 2013
If, coulda, woulda, shoulda about history may not change it but does change our understanding of what happened and why. The two gravest mistakes the US made in Vietnam were to participate in, even bless, the overthrow of President Diem and then to not use our overwhelming force to bring North Vietnam to its knees.
The overthrow of Diem in 1963 upended the South Vietnamese pacification efforts and disrupted the organization of the professional army, requiring the large-scale US involvement. The failure to then use our massive force, especially in the air on North Vietnamese strategic targets instead of sending multi-million dollar planes against cheap trucks, allowed the North to extend its reach and prolong the war.
Mark Moyars wrote the book "Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, 1954-1965." It details how Diem's efforts were succeeding and were destroyed by the coup. In the June 29 Wall Street Journal (behind the paywall) Moyar reviews three other recent books that come to the same conclusion. Wise guys in Washington should not be in such a hurry to think they can superimpose their ideal of Western democracy where the foundations have not been laid and in the midst of war requiring unified stern measures.
Of historical note is, not only in 1964-5 the failure to bring to bear the Joint Chiefs' recommendations for strategic targeting of the North, but how in 1970 there was a similar failure of will in Washington. As President Nixon showed in 1972 by launching such a ferocious air attack on Hanoi and Haiphong, the war could have been shortened and many thousands of lives saved. Rear Admiral Joe Vasey was right hand man to Admiral John McCain Jr, Commander-In-Chief Pacific Command during 1968-1972. In an exclusive to this blog, for historical record, Joe Vasey has agreed to publish the below "after inaction" report on what could have been in 1970. (My apologies for the spacing below, due to copying-pasting from an email.)
Continue reading "What could have beens in Vietnam"
Thursday, June 20. 2013
Came home from a busy and exertional family day last weekend to notice some of Mrs. BD's Digitalis in glorious bloom.
Whenever I see Digitalis - Foxglove - in bloom I remember "the Shropshire Crone," renowned in medical history for promoting the use of it for "dropsy" - congestive heart failure. The astute and open-minded Dr. William Withering took notice and got all of the credit - hence the continued use of Digitalis for heart failure. Many people we see walking around would be either dead or bed-ridden without this herbal treatment. Digitalis increases the contractility of the failing heart, but in higher doses it kills you.
Digitalis is a biennial, and self-sows generously when in a happy spot - half-day sun, rich soil. That is Nepeta in bloom in the foreground, and the low-growing Little Lamb's Ear Hydrangea on the left, which will bloom white in late summer.
Up here in the land of snow, we treasure our gardens especially because our growing season is so darn short. Our plants have to know how to carpe diem even if we do not. We try to learn from them. Winter is coming.
Monday, June 17. 2013
Thursday, June 6. 2013
Not only did we never fight for this sort of stuff, our country has consistently fought against it from the very beginning. America has an illness, and the illness is amoral central power. It is nauseating to think that the NSA and the IRS are using our tax dollars to scrutinize us. It's sick, and inspires rebellious emotions. Safety is no excuse.
On a related topic, in the planning for D Day the weather, sea conditions, moonlight, and tides were crucial to Eisenhower's planning staff. What was the weather like during D-Day?
I am reading a wonderful historical fiction book by the brilliant Giles Foden about the meteorologists, physicists, and math geniuses involved in the weather predictions for D Day: Turbulence: A novel.
As it turned out, the weather was lousy and the sea state unwelcoming, and thus the German defenders of France were not expecting a visit.
Sunday, June 2. 2013
Tuesday, April 16. 2013
The complete History's Mysteries series is here.
Before I'm accused of committing the first anti-Semitic Google Earth hate crime in history, a few things might be pointed out:
1. From this page:
I'd note the 'still in use today' line, which at least explains the current buildings in Asia. As for the others, they probably figured no one would ever notice, they didn't wish to bow to convention, or they simply couldn't afford to raze and rebuild the whole goddamn building just because the local Jewish Aviators Club got its knickers in a knot.
Continue reading "History's Mysteries: The Swastika"
Monday, April 8. 2013
Her 2006 piece here.
And this snippet from Andrew Sullivan, via Jacobson:
Friday, March 15. 2013
Along with Washington and Jefferson, Calvin Coolidge is in our presidential pantheon.
At Maggie's Farm, we reject the notion that the "greats" are those who expanded central power in Washington. What's so great about that? America was designed in opposition to centralized power. Is "freedom" a dirty word?
Here's Amity Schlaes on Coolidge:
Friday, February 22. 2013
Related, "Ancient Military Drum Airs" are (in order): "Closing
Almost anybody except a confirmed metrosexual would willingly march into gunfire with good drumming. It can make a fellow feel like "It's a good day to die!" (It seems to be controversial about who said that first, but it's probably been spoken since the dawn of humanity.)
Tuesday, February 12. 2013
Silent Cal is one of our very few presidential heroes. One quote:
Sunday, February 10. 2013
Congratulations! You Have Arrived at the Greatest City on Earth.
500,000 rail passengers move daily through that remarkable two-level space. That's a lot, but it will be more when the Long Island Railroad's new underground construction is complete (LIRR now only goes to Penn Station out in the West Side hinterlands). It was brilliant to put those tracks underground up to 96th St., thus creating upper Park Avenue and its now-insanely valuable real estate.
This ol' country boy still loves NYC. In my youth, I greeted so many gals and pals at that station, coming or going, that I feel nostalgia whenever I am there. Adventure. It looks and feels far better now, but that musty old train station smell is the same.
My pic of the Grand Central Market. Good stuff for prosperous commuters
Thursday, February 7. 2013
The Stubborn American Who Brought Ice to the World.
In New England, you can still see some old tumbledown icehouses around. Household refrigerators were not in common use until the late 1920s. It was iceboxes until you could afford an electric refrigerator. A properly-built icehouse could store ice for over a year.
Friday, January 25. 2013
We have posted in the (ancient) past about what Greek temples and sculpture looked like when they were built. Vividly-painted.
Smithsonian used chemistry to recreate Aphrodite removing her nightie.
It's a Roman copy of a Greek sculpture, but "what difference does it make"?
Tuesday, January 22. 2013
Hitler's Germany has conquered all of Europe; all except for one resolute island nation. And, with his eye on Russia, Hitler has no interest in fighting Great Britain, he simply wants to relegate it to the inconsequential. This means stopping the supply convoys from America. A relatively simple task, given the right equipment.
Which he had.
The terrifying armada of U-boats had already caused the American supply ships to huddle in close-knit convoys; perfect targets for the long guns of a battleship. And even if the convoy was accompanied by a cruiser, or even a battleship, that's not much of a challenge when your own battleship is so big and new that you can outgun the enemy by five miles.
It was a fairly simple plan, really, and it should have worked.
And if it had?
Britain would have sat on the edge of starvation for the year or so it would have taken Hitler to conquer Russia, since now he wouldn't have to divide his forces, then would have easily fallen once he turned his eye upon it.
And that means, without a stepping stone or 'bridgehead' to gather our forces on, America never could have effectively invaded Europe.
And that means Hitler's Germany would have developed the atomic bomb long before we did. They were already working on it by the time we invaded, and it was only our intervention (like bombing the 'heavy water' facilities) that curtailed its development. Without that, Germany would have had the atomic bomb within a few years. At the time, they were considered the finest machinists in the world.
And then, after taking out Boston and Detroit, the same way we took out Hiroshima and Nagasaki — as a small warning of what's to come — what would our government have done? The same thing the Japanese government did when faced with certain annihilation.
That's how important this moment in history was.
So, why did this great plan fail? It was, after all, the maiden voyage of the largest battleship ever built, the Bismarck, and with four other battleships in the fold, there was simply no way Germany could have failed to wreak havoc on the convoys, isolating Britain and effectively curtailing any further involvement from America.
How did it fail? By a few great strokes of luck and an incredible number of blunders on Germany's part. And that's despite three major screw-ups by the Brits.
But the one major error on Germany's part, the one that signaled the end, was the one that created a situation that was perhaps the most surreal moment in the history of modern warfare.
When you picture the sinking of Bismarck, you're imagining the pounding of the large British naval guns and the brave aviators in their fast Hellcats launching deadly torpedoes at the massive warship, right?
That's what the Germans were thinking, too.
Little did anyone know.
Continue reading "History's Mysteries: The most magical moment of World War II"
Sunday, January 20. 2013
A hearty Coors Light toast to Assistant Village Idiot in Conventional Wisdom Kicked to the Curb, who found this fine interactive site which explains the new ideas, based on recent mitochondrial DNA (mDNA) evidence, of the world migrations of the human species from East Africa to around the world.
That theoretical eruption of Mount Toba 74,000 years ago almost might have wiped us out. The Ice Ages sure put a damper on things too. Changes in climate determined much of mankind's history.
Barring another Mount Toba, and with the help of some much hoped-for global warming, humans might populate the entire globe with cozy bungalows.
But we'll have another Mount Toba, for certain, sometime.
Sunday, January 13. 2013
A repost -
All humans are thought to be descendants of Mitochondrial Eve, who lived around 140,000 years ago - 4600 generations ago -in West Africa.
In the linked piece, our Berkshire friend also notes, interestingly, in a quote:
Pic is by Masolino, c 1426, in the Brancacci Chapel, Florence
Friday, January 4. 2013
A resource for those driving around New England this year: Historic Houses of New England -open to the public.
Paul Revere's house below:
Monday, December 31. 2012
Sunday, December 30. 2012
Quite a fine king he was. A true philosopher-king. (1194-1250). From the wiki:
Saturday, December 1. 2012
Pic above is a remnant of Bridgeport's grand experiments in public housing. I-95 in the background.
Bridgeport was the first city in New England to construct municipal housing for the poor. Father Panik Village was built in 1939 under the administration of long-time (1933-1957) Socialist Mayor Jasper McLevy. (Go figger that surname.)
"Slums" were bulldozed and replaced with modern buildings. In retrospect, how naive but well-intentioned it was to believe that Bridgeport's poor would be lifted up by government housing?
It's easy for us to understand, now, that orderly, pleasing people and environments are not made from the outside appearances, but from the inside. As Insty frequently points out, orderly and pleasant environments are produced by orderly and pleasant people: good environments are not causes, but results. Signs, not causes. NYC's Hell's Kitchen is now expensive and fashionable Chelsea because the slums were never cleared. One of my in-laws grew up with an urban outhouse and it did him no harm at all - or to any of his many siblings. He remembers helping his baby sister get to it during snowstorms.
At first, many happily settled into this heavily-subsidized housing with the modern luxuries of hot water and indoor toilets. Industrial jobs disappeared, but people stayed. Over time, like so many later government housing projects, Father Panik became a no-go zone for police, dominated by drug gangs - so much so that the project became famously emblematic of Bridgeport's decline.
Vila's poignant sentence "I won't know how to live out there" captures one of the problems: insulation from the realities of the world can create something akin to the crippling effects of "institutionalization." Designed as a park-like area for the working poor - at first, it was highly diverse in population - but the 1935 introduction of AFDC, it is argued, gradually converted the project into a ghetto of the dependency subculture dominated by a new era of single mothers and their ungoverned kids.
The Village has now been demolished (I wonder where the residents went). This YouTube contains some photos and memories of the place: